With the 2014 legislative session starting on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and leading Democrats in both chambers are planning to double down on their agendas to kick it off.
Facing a tough fight for a second term in November, Scott is scheduled to give the State of the State address on Tuesday morning. The governors team unveiled parts of the speech on Monday which highlight Scotts call to reduce taxes and fees. Scotts proposal includes rolling back $400 million in state vehicle registration fees and cutting business rental taxes by $100 million.
We have added almost a half a million jobs, Scott will say in the speech. Together, we have cut taxes 24 times already. ... And my hope is that we are about to cut them again ... by another $500 million this year.
As I tell the hard-working people of Florida as I travel our state: We want you to keep more of the money you earn ... because its your money! Scott will add.
Scott will showcase Florida as a destination for opportunity and will play up that theme in his address.
Today, we are moving the bar even higher, Scott will say, noting his budget proposal will reduce the state debt by $170 million. Scott plans to add that lowering the state debt and reducing taxes will greatly improve Floridas economy. If we do all this, we can make Florida not just the Land of 700,000 New Jobs. We will make Florida the Land of Opportunity.
Scott also plans to focus on higher education, showcasing his call for increased funding of Florida colleges and universities while promising to resist tuition increases.
Every parent wants their child to get a great education and for many that doesnt end at high school, Scott says in the speech. Thats why we are recommending $80 million in our budget this year for those colleges and universities who graduate students best positioned to get a job. We are changing how we fund higher education ... but if we want to make higher education more accessible to low- and middle-income families ... we have to make it more affordable. Last year, I vetoed a tuition increase that would have taken a total of more than $42 million from Florida families.
And, this year, with your help, we want to get rid of the 15 percent annual increase and inflationary increase on tuition, Scott plans to add. Undoing these 2007 and 2009 laws is another way we can keep higher education affordable and accessible. My commitment to every family dreaming to send their children to college is simple: We will hold the line on tuition.
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, spoke at the Moral Monday event held at the Capitol. The event consisted of mostly NAACP members from across the state. Despite running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in November, Thurston kept his fire on Scott on Monday.
Rick Scott and his special-interest friends want to push through an extreme agenda, Thurston insisted.. "This governor has spent four years holding our state back. He has gutted education, stunted job creation, and left the middle class behind. He has allowed the special interests to run wild and they are filling his campaign coffers with contributions.
"Rick Scott thinks he can spend millions of dollars and drown out the voices of middle-class Floridians.
Democrats in the Florida Senate, led by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, also went after Scott on Monday, pushing back against the governors tax cut proposal.
Its sad to say, looking at this budget, hes willing to spend 500 million of our dollars to get re-elected, Smith said of Scotts budget proposal, though he added Democrats would back the bulk of it, including lowering vehicle fees.
Smith also said he expected little from Scott on supporting in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants despite that being one of the chief priorities of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, in the session. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, told Sunshine State News last week he continues to oppose the proposal. Smith also showcased a bill from Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, to give the children of undocumented immigrants the right to aply for drivers licenses but, again, said he expected Scott to oppose the idea.
Tea party activists and conservatives descended on the Florida Capitol on Monday afternoon as the Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-FL) kicked off three days of lobbying legislators. AFP-FL is rallying behind Scotts call for cutting taxes and fees, backing public employee pension reform and fighting for more school choice options.
The group heard from some of the legislative leadership including Weatherford, House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Brooksville.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.